Author: Justine Larbaleister, Sarah Rees Brennan
Genre: YA, parody, paranormal
Publication Date: July 3, 2012 (North America – HarperTeen)
Summary: Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity!
On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – an awesome, badly-needed lampooning that also makes the reader think.
Review: It’s about time we had a good lampooning of our sparkly vampire-filled hordes in the YA PNR genre. And I can’t think of anyone else better to do it than Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. I literally was laughing until I was crying for most of this book, and it was so refreshing to finally be able to do so. But this book isn’t all sparkly vampires, lampooning, and laughter – it also deals with the serious matter that happens in a lot of zombie books (which translates over to the real world more often than not) – what happens when you’re forced to cease contact with someone from your family/your loved ones when they’ve become too dead/toxic for their own good?
Larbalestier and Brennan really outdid themselves here. Both have a pretty great sense of sensory language and imagery, so I could practically see the Shade, watch silly, hazmat-suit Francis, see the sparkles in Cathy’s eyes like an anime character, feel the chill of Francis’ vampire skin. The ending, especially packed quite a wallop, set on the beach where you could taste the salt and the spray, and feel the sand between your toes – yet all of the hair on your neck was standing up from immediate (and unearthly) danger.
Then there’s the world – their worldbuilding with their concise history of the Vampires of New Whitby and the Shade was absolutely fantastic and did what most fantasy/sci-fi authors should do as soon as they can after they open the book: establish the rules of the world. As in: our world has vampires. We have laws protecting them now. They’re citizens. Also, there are zombies if the turning process isn’t done right. They laid down the law (as it were) as soon as they could, as well as created this lush, diverse, and dangerous world in this seemingly ordinary sleepy Maine small town. For all of the parody of the subject matter of the book, no one can deny they built a very real world.
The characters: I LOVED them all. Even Francis (even though I wanted to punch him more times than not). I wanted to be BFFs with Mel. I think we would have been awesome together. The Larbalestier/Brennan team made them all very human (even if they were not) by the end of the book with the human problems of: “do I let my best friend possibly kill herself, or do I let her go chase after her idea of happiness?”, bigotry, and having to choose whether or not you want to save the one you love, even if they’ve become (in this case, literally) dead or toxic to you. These are all important issues wrapped up in a funny, memorable book, and I think this is what’s going to stick with the readers the most. Even though this book is largely humor, they’re not afraid to make Mel, Cathy, and Anna suffer in order to get the desired emotional payoff, and that just makes me love them (and the book) even more. The characters felt real, even the most fantastic of them, and 3D because of all of these humanizing traits (especially Mel’s problem with pseudo/borderline bigotry).
Also, the whole not-so-subtle commentary insta-love thing brought up by Mel, Ty, and Anna between Francis and Cathy? That was a huge zing to the insta-love we see so often in YA PNR these days. It made me want to hug the authors even more.
Final verdict? It makes my best of 2012 list for the funny factor alone, but the quiet messages and questions this team asks the audience between the lines has earned my respect. Definitely worth the read. “Team Human” is out July 3rd in North America from HarperTeen, so DEFINITELY check it out when you get the chance. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!